Edward Gary BLANKENSHIP
June 22, 1943 – October 15, 2020
Edward Gary Blankenship, A.I.A., died in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 15, 2020 at age 77. The best days of Gary’s childhood were spent in Nashville, to which he retired in 2016 after a long and distinguished career as one of the world’s leading airport architects.
Most of his life Gary worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week, fifty weeks a year. He earned a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in architecture from Columbia University, which provided a fellowship for Gary’s studies at the American Academy in Rome. Gary later graduated from England’s University of Cambridge, where his dissertation formed the basis of his book “THE AIRPORT”. Gary planned airport facilities around the world, first for American Air Lines, then Trans World Airlines, and then with Landrum & Brown, where he became a member emeritus of the Board of Directors. Gary completed his illustrious career by moving to California and becoming the chief architect for the half-billion-dollar redevelopment of John Wayne Airport serving Los Angeles and Orange County.
Gary was a member of The Meadow Club in Southampton, New York, and for more than 50 years, a member of the beautiful Oxford & Cambridge Club in London. Gary’s spiritual home was the ancient Church of the Holy Trinity in the village of Hildersham, near Cambridge. Gary’s most treasured membership was Cambridge University’s stately Downing College, which recognized Gary’s generous gifts to the College by naming him a Wilkins Fellow in 2016. Downing wrote of Gary that he was “kind, thoughtful and extremely gentle”, but “his loyalty to Downing was fierce”. Gary wrote of Downing that “Downing College continues to remain among my life’s greatest blessings and hardly a day goes by that I am not reminded of its timeless and inspirational architecture and breath-taking beauty.”
Gary was the son of the late Martha Baldridge Blankenship Holland and the late E. G. Blankenship, a decorated fighter-pilot in World War Two who perished in a U.S. Navy plane crash when Gary was three years old. Gary was especially fond of his late Grandmother, Irene Brasfield Baldridge, and his late Aunt, Mary Sue Baldridge McDonald. Very dear to Gary were his dachshunds, especially the late Fritz and the late Olivia.
Gary is survived by his very good friends, Kathryn and Keith W. Lerch of Indianapolis; Gary’s godson, Spencer Lawrence Lerch of Indianapolis; and Gary’s goddaughter, Hillary Hayden Lerch Gibson of Lake Oswego, Oregon. Gary is also survived by his very good friend, Judy Petty of Pittsburgh, and by his former wife, Lynda Meredith Blankenship, originally of Nashville but long a resident of New York. Gary’s thoughtfulness and generosity touched many people through the years. Thank you to his caregivers, Mr. and Mrs. Javier Bolanos, who assisted Gary in many ways.
Gary will be buried in Dresden, Tennessee, alongside his grandmother and aunt.
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
Edward Gary BLANKENSHIP
December 4, 2020
I met Gary when he visited Downing College in Cambridge, England for its Bicentenary (200th) Anniversary. He flew over from the US to be part of the celebrations. He is an alumnus of Downing but had not been back in many decades. We instantly got along. It was hard not to like Gary. He was the most gracious, thoughtful person I have ever met and the only one with such beautiful handwriting. His southern charm and intellectual sophistication made him the most delightful dinner or travel companion. He became an incredibly generous donor to Downing College over the years. The Bursar Susan Linott and I were able to travel to Nashville in 2016 to bestow upon him his 'Wilkins' gown. A gown is the formal academic dress in Cambridge University and this one is especially for donors who are made Wilkins Fellows in honor of their benefactions to Downing. This photo shows Gary wearing his gown and looking quite regal. He will be so deeply missed by so many people.
November 30, 2020
I don’t remember when Gary first entered my life – it is as if he had always been around Downing: with visits and through the many prizes that he generously funded in honour of his very dear friends. Those prizes underlined for the students the value of art, drama, and music. Gary shied away from attention so that it was with some difficulty that we persuaded him to have his name engraved on a brick at the Heong, Downing’s art gallery. He only agreed if he could also pay for three other people to have theirs engraved alongside his.
On our fundraising tours, Gary helped us navigate California – sometimes literally. He took days off work to make sure that I got safely to Pomona College, an exchange partner. When my family were on vacation in California, he took us on a tour of Newport Beach and its beautiful coastal homes, making sure that my children saw the seals up close - then back to his house to look at his prized collection of Downing memorabilia and to meet Olivia, his adored (and adorable) dachshund. And then more formally, Gary hosted dinners for Downing alumni and prospective donors – all in very impressive settings overlooking the Pacific. Gary believed in giving his friends, including his Downing friends, a good time. His generosity was legendary.
It became difficult for Gary to travel. With no prospect of Gary visiting Cambridge, we decided instead to visit Nashville in 2016 to confer on Gary his Wilkins Fellowship, complete with gown. To date, his is the only Fellowship ceremony to take place outside the College – but for Gary, it was always worth going the extra mile, or 3,000. For those of us who have spent a significant part of our lives caring for the College, it was such a pleasure to be told by Gary how much the College had meant to him. He is greatly missed.
Senior Bursar Emerita
University of Cambridge
November 1, 2020
I first met Gary when we were both starting our careers in aviation, almost 50 years ago. We worked together off and on nearly until Gary retired. I respected and admired Gary's talent and professionalism, and we became good friends. My wife, Amy, and I also socialized with Gary, and she cared for him as I did. He was a sweet, loving, gentle person and he will be missed.
In honor of Gary and his generous spirit, we have made a donation on his behalf to Downing College, Cambridge University.